World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


Muslims in Asia (301) - Panel

· Date: THU, 22 / 9 -11 am

· Language: English

· Description:

Chair: Elena Savicheva (Russian University of Peoples' Friendship)

Paper presenter: Omar Farouk Bajunid (Professor, Hiroshima City University, Japan), “The History of Islam in Indochina: A Re-exploration”
The Muslims have had a history of over thirteen centuries of presence in Indochina and yet not much has been written about their historical venture to this part of Southeast Asia. It is known for sure that Islam had reached China during the Tang Dynasty [618 A.D. to 907 A.D.] when the Muslims began to settle in significant numbers and assumed a crucial role in both the expansion of the China-Indian Ocean trade and the spread of Islam. Muslim shipping had become a significant feature of the early Muslim-Chinese intercourse in the region. The Muslims in China who included the Arabs and the Persians had also emerged to become a large and viable community well before 10th century A.D. The existence of public Muslim institutions, sanctioned by the Emperor, such as the Mufti, attested to their importance. Their role was indeed significant in the development and prosperity of the port of Canton until their mass expulsion from the area in the latter part of the 10th century, A.D. due to some political problems. Vietnam’s geographical proximity to China and political subservience to it for almost a thousand years must have made it an indirect beneficiary of the Muslim venture in China. At the very least many Muslims must have fled to Vietnam to seek refuge following their expulsion from China. By the 11th century A.D. there was already concrete historical evidence of Muslim presence in Vietnam. It was only much later, however, in the 17th century A.D., at a time when Islam had become a fairly well established phenomenon in the courts of the Southeast Asian kingdoms, that it also became much more visible in the Kingdom of Champa, which was located in the central coastal part of present-day Vietnam. The attempts by the Vietnamese to subjugate and Vietnamize Champa paradoxically, saw the rise and rapid spread of Islam among the Chams. The Islamization of the Chams was probably most definitive during this period to the point that Islam emerged to become the irreducible indicator of the identity of all ethnic Chams in Cambodia and a critical majority in Vietnam. This paper basically seeks to retrace the historical evolution of Islam in Indochina within the context of a wider regional framework using archival, archeological and oral sources in the hope of addressing some unanswered questions on the Islamization of Southeast Asia.

Paper presenter: Elena Savicheva (Professor, Russian University of Peoples' Friendship, Russia), “Islam in the ex-Soviet Muslim Republics”
In the Soviet times, within the framework of the prevailing ideology this issue was out of our historians’ field of vision. But after the USSR’s collapse Islam has resolutely declared about itself in the vast territories of its traditional spreading - Central Asia, the Caucasus, the central regions of Russia. Nowadays this issue is urgent and involves various aspects’ the role of Islam in history of the Muslim peoples as well as in their historical, cultural and national traditions, the relationship of Islam to politics, Islam in the system of international relations, etc. So, the scientific and political topicality and significance of the above issue are obvious. Among reasons of the Islamic activization in Muslim Republics of NIS (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan) the efforts of external forces must be mentioned. The influence upon this process of a number of Asian states (such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and some others) including the radicalizing effect imparted by the situation in the Middle East (primarily in Afghanistan) should be tackled. But nevertheless, the success of Islam there is not very significant. Nationalism and regionalism have become the priorities in the political and social life of the republics. It’s necessary to focus on studying the correlation between regionalism, clanship and traditions, on the one hand, and Islam, on the other one, and finding out which of these factors prevails in policy and in life. The situation in Muslim Republics of Central Asia and the Caucasus differs in many aspects. But almost all of their problems are not purely religious. For instance, in Azerbaijan first and fore most problems are dealing with political and economic aspects, the protracted conflict with Karabakh, relations with Iranian Azerbaijan and so on. But it will be erroneously not to take Islam into account. It is a religious, spiritual and socio-cultural factor that is used by various political forces especially when the political situation is aggravated. No doubts religion alongside ethnicity has played a significant part as an identification factor. Besides, Islam is widely used to express protesting sentiments. The method of cross-cultural analysis will favour the research of the perspectives of evolution of these republics with due regard to the Islamic factor.

Paper presenter: Nazgul Sultanova (M.A. Candidate, Marmara University, Turkey), “The Spread of Radical Islam in Central Asia”
Doubtlessly the most significant development in the international affairs in the 1990s is breakdown of the Soviet Union and the end of the bipolar world structure. With the disintegration of the Soviet Union we all observed the emergence of new independent states as well as the rapid spread of radical Islam in the ex-Soviet territories. Central Asian countries, as one of the ex-Soviet territories and new actors in the international arena were seen as inexperienced, passive and open to international influence based on ethnicity, history, language, culture and especially religion. Therefore the first three years of independence in Central Asia indigenous population showed a strong attraction to the history and culture of Islam, theological and legal doctrines. So as the effects of influence and access to the strong external links, alien Islamic proselytizing has gathered speed across the Muslim regions in the ex- Soviet Union, and has resulted in the spread of radical ideologies, militancy, and even terrorism. So that for the past ten years Central Asia has being considered as a place with a serious problem in Islamic radicalism. The goal of this paper initially is to have a glance to the historical background of Islam in Central Asia before and after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, afterwards describe the authoritarian governments’ affairs towards the radical Islam movement in the countries of Central Asia and eventually look at the radical groups which are still dynamic in these territories today. As a conclusion some causes of radicalization are discussed which at the same time are widely underestimated in the West.

Paper presenter: Alix Philippon (Dr., IREMAM, Institut de Recherches et d’Études sur le Monde Arabe et Musulman, France), “Sufislamism. An Analysis of the Interactions between Sufism and Islamism in Pakistan”
Generally posited as the mystical trend within Islam and often hyped as an alternative to the more politically active Islamism, Sufism, through its various orders and leaders, the pirs, is however a key to understanding ‘Muslim politics’ (James Piscatori and Dale Eickelman). A major repertoire of Islamic language, Sufism is an ambiguous signifier which has undergone a process of politicization: its semantics has become a stake in the power ratio between many contending groups, both state and non-state. Within the Pakistani Islamist field, the movement which has the most loudly trumpeted its affiliation to the Sufi identity is the Barelwi movement. Often overlooked by scholars, this theological school has been experiencing a revival since the 1980’s, through the burgeoning of many new religious and/or political organizations, generally structured on the pattern of the brotherhood. Recruiting in sociologically modern circles, these brotherhoods, established in urban centres, have often successfully attempted to redefine themselves in accordance with the demands of modernity. They have notably rationalized and internationalized their organizations, and become conscious of the importance of socio-political stakes, prompting them to adopt a posture of committed activism, thus demonstrating how ‘tradition’ may become a powerful vehicle for change and political mobilization. In order to designate such groups claiming Sufism and Sufi identity as a register for Islamist mobilization, I have coined the concept ‘Sufislamism’. Besides enabling an enhanced analysis of the various interactions between Sufism and Islamism, this concept may also improve our understanding of the highly fissile politicization of the doctrinal fractures inside the Islamist movement in Pakistan, thus helping to chart the deep waters of identity politics, especially those of intra-Sunni sectarianism.

Paper presenter: Badlihisham Mohd Nasir (Lecturer – Associate Professor), Department of Dakwah and Leadership Studies, Malasya), “The Emergence of Al-Ahbash and its Influences in Malaysia”
Al-Ahbash is one of the newly Islamic organisations who gained much attention in Malaysia. In the Middle Eastern contexts, the organization has been much associated with the struggle of Ahl Sunnah especially in responding to the threat of Wahhabism. Interestingly, this Lubnanese based organization is known for its bitter approach in defeating the Wahhabis argument of Salafis ideas. Hence, the emergence of this new Salafi movement in Malaysia is warmly welcomed by the defenders the Malaysian official Islam. It is observed that its rejection to Wahhabis idea now goes further to blaming other Islamic movements and figures in Malaysia as ‘deviated from the true teaching of Ahl Sunnah wa al-Jamaah?. This development would be certainly meaningful for the Malaysian religious authorities who are looking for supports in facing the challenge of local Islamic movements. The essay attempts to review the emergence of Al-Ahbash in Lebanon and its adherence to the idea of Ah Sunnah wa al-Jamaah. Then it would give a special attention to the spread of this group in the Malaysian context. Thought it is still early to analyse upon its significant influence in the country, this preliminary study would offer some basic ideas in understanding the influence of Middle Eastern issues in the world.

Paper presenter: Hiroko KInoshita (PhD Student, Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies, Kyoto University, Japan), “Indonesisan al-Azharites in Cairo: Their Influence in Contemporary Indonesia”
This paper tries to clarify the influence of Indonesian al-Azhar graduates in contemporary Indonesia, especially focusing on their Islamic thought. Nearly 5,000 Indonesian Students learn in al-Azhar University in contemporary Cairo. Because of their geographically diversified orientation, they consist regional organizations based on their ethnic background. They apparently reproduce the Indonesian lifestyle among them and separated each other. However, they try to overcome such cleavage by participating discussion, exchanging the opinions, contributing the articles to the journals. Thus, they discover the diversity of Indonesian Islam, not in Indonesia, but in Cairo and realize that the necessity of integrate this as Modern Islam. After they return to the Indonesia, they try to emanate the Modern Islam that they have found through the life in Cairo.